Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara CovingtonLove Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington
Series: Lusty, Texas #27
Published by Siren Bookstrand on June 19, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars

If you’ve never read any books from the publisher Siren-Bookstrand before, you might not realize that they publish dozens of different erotic romance series featuring small towns with interesting names and a preponderance of ménage relationships. (Although many of these relationships involve blood siblings and/or cousins, the standard Siren-Bookstrand disclaimer that there is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between relatives always holds.) Not everyone will appreciate a visit to Lusty, Texas, or Bliss, Colorado, or Luscious, Kansas, but for those who do, these books can be as enjoyable as any other long-running small town romance series.

Of all the Siren-Bookstrand series I’ve been reading for the past few years, I have to say Cara Covington’s Lusty, Texas is one of the best. It’s hard to believe, but LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is the twenty-seventh book set in the tiny but fascinating fictional Texas town of Lusty. You would think after all those books that this series would have regressed long ago to mere formula and cardboard characters, and yet I was pleased to discover a story that is easily one of my favorites. I’m fairly certain it can work as a standalone, but since I’ve read all the previous books, I might not be the best judge.

Faithful readers of this series already met bounty hunter Kat Lawson in the last book when she helped capture the latest villain bent on vengeance when he was foolish enough to show up in Lusty. What we saw back then only hinted at the friendship she’d already established with the Jessop brothers back in Los Angeles, but it was obvious the men were hoping for more with her one day. Now that her job has gotten her noticed by L.A.’s most dangerous gang leader, Kat realizes that she needs the three brothers more than she’d like to admit, and not just to keep her alive.

I’m a huge fan of this series, so I was almost certain that I’d enjoy LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS but what I found surprising was how the suspense plot was more developed and interwoven with the romance than in the past several books. I’m always skittish about when the heroine is placed in physical danger as a way to bring her closer to her romantic interest, but the threat to Kat is balanced well with how her desire for the Jessop brothers becomes something she can no longer ignore. Of course there’s no uncertainty on the part of the Jessops, as we already know by now that when men in the extended Kendall-Jessop family find their woman, they fall instantly, completely, and for good. But that’s a comfort here when Kat needs that unconditional love to find the healing she’s been missing in her life. Unrealistic? Likely. Fun to read? Definitely.

In any case, if you love a small town romance and you’d like to mix it up with ménage and just a touch of BDSM, then LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is for you. As the saying goes, people who like that sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing they like. And I liked it quite a lot.

four-half-stars

CallonMebyRoniLoren

Review: Call On Me by Roni Loren

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Call On Me by Roni LorenCall on Me by Roni Loren
Series:
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars
The new Loving on the Edge novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing Between Us and Need You Tonight… Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.

When I first got back into reading romance a few years ago, one of the authors recommended to me was Roni Loren. The book was CRASH INTO YOU, an erotic romance thriller, and I was hooked from the start. Seven books and one serial later, CALL ON ME continues the Loving On The Edge series tradition of mixing erotic romance with suspense, even as the suspense here is significantly less violent and more nuanced than in the first book that started it all.

Readers of this series already got to meet Pike Ryland, the super sexy and successful rock drummer, when he was hanging out with his buddy Foster as that gentlemen discovered lasting love with the lady next door. Now Pike is about to find his own HEA where he least expects it, but only once he realizes the rock star persona that brings the ladies to his door is what’s pushing her away.

Oakley Easton went through the music industry wringer and came out on the other side a different person. The last thing she needs in her precariously balanced life is a musician, even if he’s the first guy to give her any kind of thrill since before her daughter was born. Still, neither Pike nor their attraction can be denied, and as Pike and Oakley grow closer, so does her most feared danger following in his wake.

One of my favorite things about CALL ON ME was how the suspense wasn’t the usual external murderous threat existing solely to push the hero and heroine closer. It was more about all the fears Oakley had to confront every day, constantly juggling her time between dealing with her daughter’s needs and finding money to pay all their bills. Even when Oakley’s greatest nightmare finally comes true, she confronts the peril directly, singlehandedly saving both her daughter and herself with Pike serving only as an approving bystander.

The other great feature of this book is also what I’ve loved in each book of this series — a heroine who embraces her sexuality fully as the hero comes to terms with how his own wants and desires can fit within the relationship they are building together. Oakley may not advertise the nature of her second job, but she’s also not going to apologize for it to Pike or anyone else, because she knows best what she can do to earn more money while raising her daughter without anyone else’s help. It’s Pike who needs to grow up and see Oakley as the woman strong enough to be both his submissive and his love without reservations or regrets, and the result made me both swoony and teary-eyed. CALL ON ME shows that this long running series is just as good now as it ever was. I’m not sure what the next book will bring, but I can’t wait to read it.

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue Me

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue MeThe Collar by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #5
Also in this series: The Enticement
Also by this author: The Enticement
Published by Penguin, Penguin Publishing Group on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars
The New York Times bestselling author of The Submissive returns with a scintillating new tale about power, danger, and jaw-dropping passion.... Nathaniel and Abby are struggling to navigate the challenging waters of their own relationship, when they get a surprising phone call from their partners in play, Dena and Jeff, who are in need of a helping hand… Seven years ago, blonde, beautiful lawyer Dena Jenkins was tired of her carefully controlled life. Desperate for something exhilarating to help her escape the pressures of her demanding job and her senator father, she joined a steamy, local BDSM club as a submissive. There she met brooding Dominant, Jeff. The attraction between them was undeniable, and, despite Dena’s doubts, they couldn’t stay away from each other. Except, as the years have passed, their blazing connection has proven difficult to maintain. Dena and Jeff have a history they’d rather forget, but Dena can’t let go of the past, and Jeff is ready to move across the country to give her space. Now, to save their passion, they’ll have to rediscover what it means to trust each other—and give themselves to each other completely.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/984c05ae24/

THE COLLAR is the fifth book in Tara Sue Me’s excellent Submissive series and the first where the main focus is not on the couple who have been the center of the ongoing story. Jeff and Dena were both introduced briefly in the previous book, THE ENTICEMENT. Now in THE COLLAR we get to discover their backstory and see them find their way back to each other again with the help of Nathaniel and Abby, as well as the somewhat opportune timing of a surprise stalker.

It’s clear from the start that Jeff and Dena were meant to be together before something terrible came between them. At first I thought the problem would be related to the different worlds from which they came. Dena was raised in the lap of luxury and privilege thanks to her father’s elevated status in political circles. Jeff’s origins were much lower and less pleasant, and it seemed as though he’d never stop thinking he wasn’t worthy of her. Yet when they met at the local BDSM club, her submissive nature and his Dominance fit perfectly together, and the love they found together seemed invincible. But now it’s years later and whatever broke them up still appears to be keeping them apart. As much as it kills him inside, Jeff is getting ready to move far away for good, in the mistaken belief that it’s the best decision for them both. It’s only when a sudden threat to Dena’s safety appears that Jeff realizes he must stay and protect her at any cost, even if it means reopening old wounds and confronting what stands between them once and for all.

I was concerned at first when I realized Nathaniel and Abby would not be the central couple of THE COLLAR but was soon placated by how seamlessly their story is woven into that of their new friends Jeff and Dena. We already know how great Jeff is by how he saved Abby in THE ENTICEMENT and the great trust that Nathaniel has placed in him. We also soon see that Dena isn’t the entitled rich girl one might expect with her upbringing. It’s only when Dena is with Jeff that she’s truly happy, and the same is true for him. But it’s quite obvious that the pain that stood between them would have won if it wasn’t for the person who suddenly starts threatening Dena’s life.

Normally when this type of suspense plot is used to bring the hero and heroine together I get worried that it will take over entirely, but in THE COLLAR the suspense serves the romance, not vice versa. Even when I was able to figure out the culprit, I didn’t much care because that subplot was just the excuse needed to keep Jeff with Dena long enough for them to deal with all the misunderstandings that had kept them apart. So much of THE COLLAR is Jeff and Dena recalling the past and working together to get beyond it, and that’s what I loved the most about this book. But we still get enough Nathaniel and Abby so that it’s their story as well, and that’s why THE COLLAR is yet another great entry in the Submissive series for me.

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four-stars

Review and Giveaway: Caged by Lorelei James

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway:  Caged by Lorelei JamesCaged by Lorelei James
Also by this author: Unraveled
Published by Penguin on July 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
In the searing fourth novel in the Mastered Series, following Unraveled, only one woman can set a hardened fighter free from his past.… In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat. But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust.... The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

CAGED is the latest entry in the Mastered series by Lorelei James and one that continues the upward swing of my enjoyment in a series that started out rough for me but keeps getting better. In this book, we finally get an HEA for two previously introduced secondary characters, including the one whose initial violent encounter was the starting point for the entire series.

Deacon McConnell is famous in the local mixed martial arts community for his ability to read and exploit his opponents’ weaknesses in direct competition. Yet when it comes to making a claim on the woman he’s wanted for years, he’s still unable to follow through. Molly Calloway came to the dojo at her best friend Amery’s insistence for self-defense training after an attack that threatened her physical safety. Now that Amery is happily married to the dojo’s Sensei, it’s Molly who’s still working on defending herself from both physical and emotional threats, the greatest of which is her undeniable pull toward Deacon. When Molly finally confronts Deacon in the unlikeliest of places, the simmering attraction between them flares up hot and strong. But as demons from both their individual pasts threaten to come between them, it will take more than physical desire to stay true to themselves and each other to their happy ending together.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these characters in previous books, other than when Molly was being stubborn about not wanting to go to the dojo when Amery agreed to participate in classes with her there in the first book. But CAGED has fleshed out the backgrounds of both Molly and Deacon almost to the point of overload, and shown that they do have more in common than just irresistible sexual chemistry. Both of them were rejected in almost ridiculously horrific ways by the people who should have loved and protected them, and each has managed to not just survive but succeed in spite of all that. It was wonderful to see them have each other’s backs as they had to re-fight their family battles one last time, even when the going got rough and inevitably faltered along the way.

The only part that didn’t quite work for me in CAGED was the early continuing emphasis on Deacon’s various confrontations with his trainer and a new but ultimately temporary competitor, and the constant misunderstandings from Ronin’s lack of transparency in his dojo management. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be the bad guy and who wasn’t, and was still confused right up until a few pages of explanation much later in the book when Ronin deigned to make things clearer to both Deacon and the reader. Frankly, anything that isn’t directly related to the romance is of lesser interest for me, so I was happiest when Molly and Deacon were front and center together. Their personalities complemented each other well when they didn’t let external forces become a distraction, and the obstacles in their path to their HEA helped them grow emotionally as individuals and a couple. By the end of CAGED, I knew that they were going to stay together no matter what, and that it was the best possible ending for both of them. I can only hope that they and we as the readers will continue to enjoy seeing other members of the Black Arts dojo family find their own happiness as the Bound series continues.

Berkley / NAL Romance is giving one lucky commenter a free copy of the first two books in the Bound series (BOUND and UNWOUND). Just leave a comment here at the blog on this review between now (7/9/2015) and a week from now (7/16/2015). The winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post and will receive this prize directly from the publisher.

four-stars

UPDATED: My email from Scribd regarding today’s purge of several thousand romance titles

Allison C. (Support Desk)
Jun 30, 8:43 PM

Hi Michele,

I can certainly understand your confusion and any frustration this may be causing. You’re right, we didn’t do a very good job communicating this to readers who would be affected, and I am incredibly sorry for that. By now you’ve seen the blog post from our CEO, Trip, in which he explains some of the reasons why we have made this decision.

For the moment, the blog post offers a list of some of the publishers we will always carry. More importantly, we’ve heard your feedback and are working to make it more obvious from your Library which titles are expiring, without needing to open each book to find out.

We are still, and always will be, committed to our Romance fans and the Romance genre. We will continue to have a fantastic selection – thousands and thousands of titles – of Romance. Books and authors you love, and new material that will soon become favorites. We will never stop carrying Romance, and are still working hard to grow this category in a way that is viable for us and our customers.

We are focusing on growing Scribd across all genres – not just Romance – and this requires us to put our focus on other areas at times, so that we can offer a robust Sci-Fi collection to Sci-Fi fans, a robust History collection to History fans, and all the comic books and audiobooks that you could possibly imagine. In order to do this, we need to first even out the playing field.

And much like Netflix and Hulu before us, we’re always going to be rotating our selection, making sure that great independent content gets as fair of a shot as major bestselling titles.

I hope that this helps to ease your concerns. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can assist you with. Thanks again for writing in, and have a great day!

Best regards,
Allison C. – Scribd Support Manager
Scribd, Inc.

UPDATED 7/1/2015

After I heard back from Allison again with a question about my collections vs. my library, I asked her this question:

“There are dozens of romance titles in my library right now that are no longer coming up when I check the authors’ listings. They aren’t labeled as expiring, although I do have more than a few of those as well. Is there any indication of how long I’ll have before the ones not marked as expiring will still be available for me to read?”

And here was her response:

“We’re actually working on the expiration banner right now. Our engineers are putting one together that will let readers know how long they have (30 days, in this case), along with a link to Trip’s message to explain why this is happening. We hope it will clear things up, but if you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see, please let me know.

We should have this up hopefully within the next 24-48 hours. I’m working closely with them and with my own boss to get this pushed through.

The books aren’t going to show under the authors’ accounts right now because they’re essentially hidden until they expire in 30 days. We’re also working on making this a little more seamless so as to avoid the confusion of seeing “5 books” under the author’s title page, and then that number linking to nothing.”

I would like to thank Allison here, as I already have via email. for being so good about responding to these concerns that so many subscribers have right now. If I hear anything else from her, I’ll post it as another update to this post.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest if you are a Scribd subscriber with titles in your library that are now no longer available via search that you start reading those books as soon as possible, as it appears they will probably not be around 30 days from now. I know that’s what I’ll be doing.

SuddenlyOneSummerbyJulieJames

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie JamesSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
Series: FBI / US Attorney #6
Published by Penguin on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
From the New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Wedding comes a novel about a man and a woman whose summer is about to get very, very hot... Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating—just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits. But once she agrees to take on his sister's case, she's as determined to win as ever—even if that means teaming up with Ford....Investigative journalist Ford Dixon is bent on finding the man who got his sister pregnant and left her high and dry. He's willing to partner with Victoria, despite the fact that the beautiful brunette gets under his skin like no other woman. He might not be looking to settle down, but there's no denying the scorching attraction between them. Still, the more time he spends with Victoria, the more he realizes that the one woman as skeptical about love as he is might be the only woman he could really fall for…"If you need a great read to throw in your beach bag, make sure Suddenly One Summer is one of your choices." --USA TodayFrom the Paperback edition.

SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is only the second book I’ve ever read by Julie James, but she has already become a writer I trust to provide a couple I can’t resist in an interesting story filled with seemingly effortless dialogue and just enough plot twists to keep it lively. In this latest entry in her ongoing FBI / US Attorney series, our hero is an investigative journalist who was introduced as a secondary character in a previous book and his heroine is a divorce attorney determined to keep her life free from romantic entanglements.

Victoria Slade wasn’t supposed to move into her new house until the end of summer, but when burglars send her to the hospital with a panic attack, she’s forced to find another less frightening place to live until then. When she meets Ford Dixon, her temporary neighbor, Victoria is tempted, but refuses to let her libido or her heart get her in trouble. What she didn’t count on was getting pulled into Ford’s quest to find the father of his sister’s baby, and how their constant proximity would soon blossom into a romance neither Victoria nor Ford is quite ready to handle.

What I loved the most about SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER is how Julie James takes two people who are complicated characters in their own right and throws them together in a way that not only seems possible but inevitable as we feel every moment they experience on the way to their happy ending. Although Ford and Victoria come from different worlds, the childhood traumas that shaped them aren’t all that dissimilar, and when they reach the inescapable black moment of the story we can see their coping mechanisms are also variations on the same theme. The search for the father of Ford’s sister’s baby may at first seem not directly related to the romance, but as Ford and Victoria become more engrossed in their shared quest, their teamwork helps build the rapport and trust each needs to take their summer affair into something deeper. It’s also what ultimately keeps them in each other’s lives long enough to realize what they have is stronger than any past trauma, and pushes them into the shared leap of faith a real commitment requires.

It’s hard to fully describe the feeling I get when I read a Julie James book without sounding either pretentious or hackneyed. For me, her writing is like a perfectly mixed cocktail or a flawlessly constructed dessert, where you know there was extensive effort behind the scenes to make it all work but all you experience is the sublime result. SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER made me laugh, made me cry, and made me swoon, sometimes all in the same paragraph. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and reminds me I still need to go back and read all the other titles in this excellent series.

five-stars

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Asking For It by Lilah PaceAsking for It by Lilah Pace
Series: Asking For It #1
Published by Penguin Group USA on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
“This is who I am. This is what I want. Now I need a man dangerous enough to give it to me.” Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy. Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker... Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.

ASKING FOR IT is an unusual story from a new author, or at least a new name to the genre. I wish I knew the name that Lilah Pace used for her other books, because I want to glom her backlist. Because I loved ASKING FOR IT. I loved it so much that I bought my own copy when it was released weeks after I read the ARC. It’s easily the best book I’ve read so far in 2015, and the only book I’m anticipating being better is the follow up book to come later this year.

Vivienne Charles has a special need for sexual satisfaction, an overwhelming need and a secret shame. Secret until one fateful evening when her drunk ex blurts out the truth in front of the one man who hears and understands. For Jonah Marks has his own wants and desires, and what he wants is what she needs. The forces that let them to this point may be pushing them together, but when long buried secrets are revealed, those same forces will drive them apart just as quickly, perhaps for good.

I’m not going to drop any spoilers to show why I found this book to be so incredibly good because as always, the joy is in the reading. But there is one thing I need to reveal because I’m convinced it will make you like the book more, not less. ASKING FOR IT is not a stand-alone book – it’s book 1 of a duology. That means the romance started here in ASKING FOR IT will not have its happy ending until book 2, BEGGING FOR IT.

If you hate cliffhangers, please know that I hate them just as much, and if I hadn’t known this story was continued in the next book, I’d have felt blindsided. Yet I did know, and as a result, the ending felt more like an intermission between acts, a natural break as opposed to an arbitrary stopping point. Vivienne and Jonah just have so many problems to work out both individually and together that any HEA in this book would have to be rushed and completely unbelievable. By the time ASKING FOR IT ends, there’s so much we know about Vivienne, but we’ve only just begun to plumb Jonah’s depths, and why what Vivienne wanted is what he wanted to give her…until it wasn’t.

If you’ve read the blurb or the disclaimers, you know what this book is about. It’s a woman with rape fantasies and a man willing to make them happen for her. But what this book is also about is consent, in big flashing capital letters. Consent is what brings Vivienne and Jonah together. Consent is what differentiates their relationship from any other either has ever had. And lack of consent is what could ultimately tear them apart. Because consent needs to be mutual, or it doesn’t exist at all.

The line that resonated with me the most about consent is also what I keep coming back to when someone asks me why their story had to be in two separate books. It was spoken by Vivienne’s therapist about Jonah, and it’s part of why this book was so different for me in a genre overrun with dub-con, non-con, and every variation of what is sold as “dark romance” these days.

“But he gets to have limits too.”

Readers also get to have limits. ASKING FOR IT might hit your limits, and that’s understandable. But if this is the kind of book you think you might like, I think you might like it a lot. I know I did.


Excerpt

“Enough about me,” I say as the weekend-night bustle flows around us – college kids heading to bars, stores open late to take advantage of the foot traffic, guitar music and drumbeats audible from the door of every club. “What about you? What made you decide to study earthquakes?”

“And volcanoes,” he adds.

“Can’t leave out the volcanoes,” I say, and am rewarded with a small smile.

“Well, when I was about ten years old, my mother and stepfather took the whole family to Hawaii.”

Stepfather, I note. Jonah could have no memory of his real father, and Carter Hale’s been married to Jonah’s mother for almost three decades. Most kids in that situation would wind up calling their stepfathers Dad. Not Jonah.

He continues, “Like most tourists in Hawaii, we went out to see the volcanoes. I hadn’t imagined you could get that close to the lava flow. When I saw it – glowing orange with heat, pure liquid stone –” To my surprise, he grins. “I was ten, so I thought it was totally cool.”

I laugh out loud. “So that’s how you picked your scientific specialty? Because it was cool?”

“Any scientist who tells you something different is lying. If you’re going to spend your entire life studying something, it needs to thrill you. Volcanoes and earthquakes thrilled me when I was a kid, and they still do. Even after all the studies and the dissertation and months of looking at nothing but seismograph readings. I get a charge out of it every time.”

“Hey, they always say that if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work,” I say.

Which is a crock.” When I raise an eyebrow at Jonah, his smile regains some of the fierceness I know so well. “If you spend twelve hours in a row doing something – anything – it feels like work.”

Laughing, I admit, “Okay, yes. The studio’s my favorite place to be, but there are times when I feel like if I go in there one more time, I’ll tear my hair out. Still, I’d rather go crazy making art than do anything else.”

Jonah nods. “That’s it exactly.”

“So you get to spend your whole life chasing lava.”

“And you’ll spend yours making art.”

“Yes and no,” I say. “After graduation I’m hoping to go into museum work. Preserving old etchings, curating important pieces, even using original plates from centuries ago to make new prints.”

He gives me a look. “You should do your own work. Not worry about taking care of someone else’s.”

“It’s not either/or. I’ll never stop creating my own work. But even if I set the entire art world on fire, it’ll be years before I can support myself through my etchings alone – if ever. So there’s going to be a day job for a while, probably a long while. Should I do something boring that sucks my soul away one day at a time? Or should I surround myself with some of the greatest etchings of all time, and help other people understand how amazing they are?”

After a moment, Jonah nods. “When you put it that way, okay. I see it.”

Then his hand brushes against mine. At first I think he’s drawing me aside as we go past a group of college kids drunkenly weaving along the sidewalk. After they pass, though, he adjusts his grip, twining our fingers together.

Jonah Marks has screwed me hotter and dirtier than any other man ever has – and yet my heart flutters like a girl’s as he holds my hand for the first time. 


About the author

Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling YA author. This is her first adult novel.

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five-stars

DeliciousTemptationEntangledBrazenbySabrinaSol

Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina SolDelicious Temptation (Entangled Brazen) by Sabrina Sol
Series: Delicious Desires #1
Published by Macmillan on May 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 200
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...The only thing naughtier than a bad boy is a good girl...Amara Maria Robles is a good girl. So good that she gave up her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef to help her parents with their struggling Mexican bakery. Yet her parents reject any changes she suggests, and refuse to sell her mouth-watering confections. Clearly being a good girl isn't paying off. So when her brother's sexy ex-best friend walks into the bakery, Amara's tempted to be very bad indeed...After a scandal twelve years ago, resident bad boy Eric Valencia has returned to make things right with his family and friends. One glance at Amara and her wicked curves, however, and Eric finds himself thinking about how she'd feel beneath him-something he promised Amara's brother he would never think about, let alone do. But this bad boy is in deep trouble...because Amara's determined to have her cake, and Eric, too.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION is the story of how a good girl and a bad boy each move past the judgmental expectations of family and community to embrace love and a new life together. This story should have been right in my wheelhouse, but the combination of a doormat heroine, a vacillating hero, and outrageously overbearing parents made this a less than optimal read for me

Amara Robles abandoned her successful pastry chef job in Chicago to take over her family’s tiny East LA bakery after her father’s illness. Now with all of the responsibility but none of the authority, Amara feels stifled by being back under her parents’ thumb and by their refusal to approve any changes to save the bakery. When her brother’s notorious high school friend Eric Valencia reappears after years away, Amara decides to risk her parents’ disapproval to go after him, if only temporarily. But will Eric be worth the gamble for both her heart and her family’s livelihood?

The trope of a heroine yearning to break free from oppressive parents is a classic in romance, and it’s gratifying when the heroine successfully rescues herself from their clutches. But when the parents are completely intractable in the face of all good reason, and the heroine can’t escape without the help of other external forces, then I start feeling trapped myself.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION still could have worked for me if Amara had ever stood up to her parents even once. But in Amara’s world, life isn’t what you make of it, it’s what your parents decide is best for you. This might be understandable for a heroine just starting out on her own, but when the heroine is in her late 20s and has already had a life outside her parents’ sphere of influence, it makes for a frustrating read. And yet this is how Amara behaves for nearly the entire story. Even when the last best opportunity to save her parents’ bakery is rejected by them (just like always), it only still ends up happening because someone else takes over after Amara gives up (just like always).

Amara only makes a few real independent decisions in the entire story, one of which is to make the fancy cupcakes her parents previously rejected, and the other to go after Eric. And yet she even gives up on Eric when it looks like he’s not going to stick around after all. Amara’s almost complete acquiescence to whatever anyone else decided for her was infuriating, and having other characters call her out on it didn’t make it any better. By the time I got to the end of the book, it was clear that if Eric hadn’t finally seen the light, Amara would have stayed under her parents’ thumb indefinitely. That’s not a heroine I can cheer for.

Amara and Eric were a cute couple, and I was glad they got their HEA in spite of all the obstacles in their path. But ultimately for me, Amara’s inability to stand up for herself until everything else was already fixed for her made DELICIOUS TEMPTATION more aggravating than enjoyable for me.

three-stars

Review: The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Perfect Letter by Chris HarrisonThe Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison
Published by HarperCollins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance, Western
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
As the longtime host of ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Chris Harrison has learned a thing or two about romance. Now, in his debut novel, Chris draws on his unique insights and wisdom to explore the exhilarating experience of risking it all in the name of love."The truth was something Jake said they should keep, always, between the two of them . . . "Leigh Merrill had spent ten years running away from her past. A talented young book editor on the fast track at a major publishing house, Leigh had been determined to build a life for herself in New York City—a life far from the hay-filled barns, swimming holes, and rolling hills of her grandfather's horse farm in Texas. And for the most part, she'd succeeded. This new life, one filled with books and parties and romance, was everything she'd dreamt of as a girl. Complete. Happy even, if Leigh considered the future she was building with Joseph, a brilliant, generous man who adored the very ground she walked on. Still, when the invitation arrived asking her to be the keynote speaker at the Austin Writer's Conference, Leigh couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that Texas, with all of its tangled secrets, was calling her home.Out of reasons to say no to a free trip, Leigh sees the conference as a perfectly timed escape—just a few days away to catch up with old friends, meet a few potential authors, and clear her mind. But Leigh's plans for a quiet retreat quickly dissolve when a stack of deeply personal letters from the past are left in her hotel room. After all these years of running, Leigh has nowhere to hide. In her hands she holds the letters that bare her soul and her secrets, the letters she wrote to one man, the love of her life—Jake. With her past and present crashing in around her, Leigh must decide just how much she's willing to risk for love.A remarkable debut by a modern-day love expert, The Perfect Letter is a must-read for Bachelor fans, and hopeless romantics, everywhere.

When I heard Chris Harrison, the veteran host of the long-running Bachelor/Bachelorette reality competition series, had written a romance novel and credited Nicholas Sparks as his role model, you can imagine how cynical my reaction was. Just because a guy hosts a tv show where people think they’re finding true love doesn’t mean he can write a real romance. And readers familiar with Nicholas Sparks know all too well how most of his books are the opposite of romances (spoiler alert: he likes to kill off one or both of his romantic leads off by the end). But as a romance reviewer and admitted Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, I couldn’t resist such a hugely publicized book. So I requested an advance copy, set my expectations to zero, and plunged in headfirst.

Fundamentally, THE PERFECT LETTER is not an all-out debacle, as some (including me) might have expected, and it is an actual romance, unlike most of what Nicholas Sparks produces. But it is also not a particularly well written romance, relying on too many obvious tropes without any attempts at originality on its way to a conclusion that manages to be both unbelievable and predictable.

Leigh is a successful young woman on the verge of a huge promotion in her dream job and marriage to a man to whom she owes so much. But first she must return to the place she’s stayed away from since her beloved grandfather died while attempting to avoid the one man who’s kept her away all these years. When Jake comes back into Leigh’s life, it’s like they’d never been separated, never lost each other in a sudden act of violence. But as Leigh is torn between her big city future and her small hometown past, someone else is poised to destroy it all before she gets the chance to decide for herself

For someone who has never read a romance book before, everything in THE PERFECT LETTER might seem new and exciting, but for an experienced reader, what’s here is a slightly longer version of a stereotypical category romance. After years of denial, adorable wunderkind heroine must confront a past tragic event that tore from her great love and forced her from the only home she’s ever known. Noble bad boy hero sacrificed all for his one true love but can’t help wanting her back even as the evil source of their pain has coincidentally returned to deal one final deadly blow. Add a red flag fiance, a wacky but loyal gal pal, and an ending that went well beyond mere eyerolls, and you’ve got THE PERFECT LETTER.

Just because a true romance must end with the hero and heroine together and happy doesn’t mean that a book shouldn’t keep the HEA from appearing predetermined. But THE PERFECT LETTER doesn’t even really try. The supposed conflict regarding Leigh’s existing commitment to her NYC boyfriend / wannabe fiance is laughable, as we’re already informed right at the start that the boyfriend mocks her Texas origins, isn’t particularly giving in the bedroom, and won’t listen to her concerns as he tries to railroad her into being his bride. Indeed, we’re supposed to be happy that Leigh instantly falls into bed with Jake after years of estrangement because he is her one true love, and Leigh’s hometown BFF is there to give voice to that opinion in case we might have any moments of doubt.

And when the real threat to Leigh and Jake’s long awaited happiness finally presents itself, it’s clear that the lack of plausibility isn’t limited to just the romantic elements of the story. You see, at the heart of THE PERFECT LETTER are the letters Leigh sent to Jake for several years after their wrenching separation. But it’s the one letter she wrote that has placed them both in danger, and the implausibility of its existence is matched only by what the heroine ultimately does in an attempt to save herself and the hero from the person using it to threaten them both. It’s difficult to fully express how unbelievable the resolution of the suspense plot is without resorting to spoilers, but when I’m searching online for details on how much a bank will allow you to withdraw from a personal account with only a few days’ notice, it’s safe to say I’m more than a bit skeptical about what’s going down.

As someone who is often fortunate enough to receive free advance copies for review, I’ve tended not to discuss book prices in my actual reviews, although if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I have well defined opinions about what I will and will not personally pay for any book. But after a great deal of thought, I’ve concluded that cost is a key factor for enough readers that I need to stop ignoring it in my reviews. After all, saying a book is worth reading isn’t necessarily the same as saying how much it’s worth paying for, or even worth paying for at all.

So let’s talk about how much this book is being sold for and how that relates to its content. The new ebook price for THE PERFECT LETTER is $11.99 at the time of this review, and that’s in line with the majority of most big publisher hardback book releases by a well known personality. But even if it was half that price, I still wouldn’t buy it, if only because a highly marketed book like THE PERFECT LETTER will be fairly easy to find at the public library. There’s not much in this book that I care to read a second time, and certainly not for that much money, but like the rest of this review, that’s just my opinion and yours may vary.

In conclusion, it’s fair to say I was entertained by THE PERFECT LETTER and I’m happy I got to read it, though it’s a shame that it wasn’t the book it claims to be in its blurb. At least it’s a genuine romance, and not the Nicholas Sparks kind, and for that and for the reasonably enjoyable intimate scenes between its hero and heroine, THE PERFECT LETTER is still worth reading, even if not at full retail price.

three-stars

MakeYouMinebyJackieAshenden

Review: Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Make You Mine by Jackie AshendenMake You Mine by Jackie Ashenden
Series: Nine Circles #2
Published by Macmillan on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Gothic, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
In the Nine Circles Club, one lucky man gets more than his share of money, power, and women--until he meets a beautiful opponent who plays in the name of love...in Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden.He's raising the stakes.International playboy Alex St. James always plays to win. Whether it's betting on a high-stakes card game--or bedding a high-class socialite--the gorgeous world-class gambler knows how to beat the odds using his brains, his body, and a whole lot of charm. But there's one woman who's immune to Alex's bag of tricks--which makes her the perfect challenge...and the ultimate prize.She's going all in.Once a special operative in her native Russia, Katya Ivanov knows what kind of man Alex is. As his personal bodyguard, she's seen him seduce the richest women, place the riskiest bets, and break the hardest players. But to even a score from her past, she's willing to take a gamble on her reckless boss. Even if she has to pretend to be his lover. Even if he drives her mad with desire. And then she never wants this dangerous game to end...

This review may contain spoilers for MINE TO TAKE, the first book in the Nine Circles series. You could try to read MAKE YOU MINE as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

MAKE YOU MINE is the second book in Jackie Ashenden’s romantic suspense series Nine Circles, telling the story of how another member of the “bleeped-up billionaires club” finds his own true love when he least expects it. And while the first book MINE TO TAKE was a great introduction to the Nine Circles world, MAKE YOU MINE took off like a rocket from where that story left off and didn’t stop until I was breathless and crying for fictional characters like they were actually real.

Alex St. James has tried to protect himself and everyone else in his life by pretending not to care about anything except making money and pleasures of the flesh. Caring nearly killed him once, and he refuses to be vulnerable a second time. But when he needs his lovely bodyguard to be his pawn in a plot for revenge against the man who changed his life forever, Alex discovers that not only does he care, but that being cared for in return can be the greatest strength of all.

Betrayed by family and country, Katya found work as a bodyguard to an American billionaire playboy while waiting for news about the missing man she’s promised to marry. She is paid to protect his body, but it’s his soul that she worries about. As Alex’s plan unfolds, only Katya’s unswerving loyalty and Alex’s last shreds of humanity stand between them and the loss of everything they both hold dear.

One of the things I love about Jackie Ashenden’s stories is how her characters always pull at my heartstrings so brutally that I sometimes have to put the book down, but never so much that I won’t immediately pick it back up again. And then just when I think it’s reached the lowest point of what could possibly happen, she hits me with one more punch that leaves me both reeling and begging for more. in MAKE YOU MINE, Alex and Katya burn up the page every time they are together, even while a terrible menace hangs over them for most of the book. And as they each reveal their closest secrets to each other, that menace seems less threatening if only because they know that nothing can really hurt them as long as they have each other. The suspense plot brings them together, but it’s their romance that propels the book and that’s what makes it a romantic suspense I can wholeheartedly recommend. And with the overall Nine Circles storyline still unresolved, I’m even more eager to read YOU ARE MINE than I was to read this book.

five-stars